Thursday, November 16, 2023

11/16 WAKE-UP CALL: Biden, Xi Talk Simmering Differences

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed on Wednesday to open a presidential hotline, resume military-to-military communications and work to curb fentanyl production, showing tangible progress in their first face-to-face talks in a year. Biden and Xi met for about four hours on the outskirts of San Francisco to discuss issues that have strained U.S.-Chinese relations. Simmering differences remain, particularly over Taiwan.

It was their first encounter since the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon in February, an incident that increased tensions between the two countries. Now, they are close to finalizing agreements to restore communications between their militaries and cooperate in choking off fentanyl trafficking, U.S. officials said. Also discussed was a potential agreement for China to resume buying Boeing jets. Other topics could include China’s weak economy, Taiwan and the South China Sea, U.S. restrictions on technology transfers and China’s Iran ties to prevent the Middle East conflict from spreading.

➤WAR IN HOSPITAL: Israeli special forces sweeping through the Gaza Strip's largest hospital Wednesday found "concrete evidence" Hamas was using the hospital as a military command center, multiple media outlets reported, citing Israeli military sources. A senior military official said Hamas weapons and other evidence were found at the sprawling Shifa campus. The U.N. estimates at least 2,300 staff, patients and displaced Gaza civilians have taken refuge there as Israeli forces have been rolling through Gaza since Hamas militants' violent border rampage on Oct. 7. Israel has claimed for weeks that Hamas was hiding militants and assets in Shifa and other Gaza hospitals. The White House said it had intelligence confirming the claim, which Hamas leaders have repeatedly denied. 

The offensive has faced international criticism for civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure, but Israel says the medical compound sits atop the militant group’s underground complexes and a command post. The U.S. agrees that Hamas and other Palestinian militants were operating there, an assessment partly based on intercepted communications of fighters inside the compound, people familiar with the matter said. Hamas denies the claims. A senior Israeli military official said soldiers found weapons and other “concrete evidence” of militants working from the hospital. Thousands of people have been sheltering on Al-Shifa’s grounds amid fierce fighting, according to doctors.

➤P-M SAYS FORCES MAY NEED TO REMAIN IN GAZA: Israeli President Isaac Herzog said a "very strong force" may need to remain in Gaza for the near future to prevent the Hamas militant group re-emerging after the war, but U.S. President Joe Biden warned that occupying Gaza would be "a big mistake". "If we pull back, then who will take over? We can't leave a vacuum. We have to think about what will be the mechanism; there are many ideas that are thrown in the air," Herzog said in an interview with the FT published on Thursday. "But no one will want to turn this place, Gaza, into a terror base again", he added.

Herzog told FT that Israel's government was discussing many ideas about how Gaza would be run once the war ends and added that he assumed that the United States and "our neighbours in the region" would have some involvement in the post-conflict order. Biden said on Wednesday that he had made it clear to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a two-state solution was the only way to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict and that occupying Gaza would be "a big mistake".

➤POLICE, DEMONSTRATORS TANGLE IN D-C:  U.S. Capitol Police officers in riot gear clashed with dozens of demonstrators who gathered outside the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington on Wednesday evening to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. The protest was organized by three advocacy groups and held in an area near the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers who were inside the DNC building said police had evacuated them from the area.

Protesters linked arms in front of the DNC building's entrance, where some sang: "Which side are you on?" Officers pushed and pulled the protesters to try to remove them from the area, at one point shoving one protester down a staircase leading to the entrance. Police also used pepper spray and fired projectiles containing chemical irritants. U.S. Capitol Police said approximately 150 people were "illegally and violently protesting". It said six officers were treated for injuries, ranging from cuts to being pepper sprayed and punched.

➤U-S SENATE AGREES TO AVERT GOVT. SHUTDOWN: The Senate passed a short-term spending bill on Wednesday that will stave off a partial government shutdown for at least another two months. In an 87-11 vote, senators overwhelmingly approved sending the legislation to President Biden’s desk, who is expected to sign the measure into law before Friday’s midnight deadline to keep federal operations going.  “I want to thank my colleagues for voting to keep the government open,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters after the vote.

The temporary government funding package was opposed by one Democrat, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and 10 Republicans, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and JD Vance (R-Ohio).  The legislation keeps federal spending at current levels for about two more months while negotiations on a long-term package continue. 

➤CONSUMERS CUT SPENDING IN OCTOBER: U-S consumers cut their retail spending last month ahead of the holiday shopping season. Sales fell 0.1% in October from a month earlier, the first decline since March, the Commerce Department said. A slowdown in economic activity raises hopes that inflation will return to its prepandemic norm without a recession, a.k.a. a soft landing. Most economists had thought that that was unlikely or impossible; in the past 80 years, the Fed has never brought inflation down substantially without sparking a recession. Inflation hit a four-decade high of 9.1% last year, prompting the central bank to raise interest rates to the highest level in 22 years. Growing evidence of a gradually cooling economy helped push U.S. stocks higher.

➤UNION DEAL WITH BIG 3 FACES OPPOSITION: A number of rank-and-file members of the United Auto Workers have rejected the deal hammered out with Detroit’s Big 3 automakers. General Motors workers at 11 UAW chapters voted “no” to the proposal, as did two chapters of Stellantis workers. Majority support is needed to prevent a resumption of the six-week auto workers strike. A labor relations expert told CBS News the opposition probably wants better retirement benefits than the deal offers.

➤MUSK ANGERS CRITICS: Musk on Wednesday agreed with a racist screed on X, with the author saying Jews 'push the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.' Musk has a long history of toying with dog-whistle rhetoric about Jewish people, in particular George Soros, who enraged him in May by selling his Tesla stock. He has also angered people with his response to the Israel-Hamas war. In the days after the October 7 Hamas terror attack, Musk was forced to delete a tweet which recommended an anti-Semitic account and a promoter of debunked videos as reliable sources of information about the attack on Israel. 

➤MOM OF 6-YEAR-OLD WHO SHOT TEACHER IS SENTENCED: The mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher in Virginia earlier this year was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison for using marijuana while owning a firearm. Deja Taylor’s son, who has not been identified, shot first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner on Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Virginia, a city of about 185,000 residents known for its ties to shipbuilding for the U.S. Navy. Authorities have said the boy used his mother's gun and shot Zwerner while she was reading to students in her classroom. Zwerner was shot in the hand and chest and has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school district alleging gross negligence. She was hospitalized for two weeks and underwent multiple surgeries.

NY Post Composite (11/16/23)
➤BEATEN FLORIDA TEACHER LIVING OFF DONATIONS: The Florida teacher who was beaten unconscious by a hulking teen student over a video game said she’s now forced to live off donations — and wants no mercy shown for her attacker at his upcoming sentencing.

“Everybody that knows me or knew me [before the attack], knows that I’m a totally different person now,” Joan Naydich told Fox 35. “My whole life was just turned upside down.”  Then 17 years old and standing at 6 feet 6 inches tall, Brendan Depa assaulted the paraprofessional inside Matanzas High School in February, leaving her with five broken ribs, a severe concussion and hearing loss.

Naydich told the station that she wants Depa sentenced to a maximum of 30 years behind bars for the stomach-churning incident that left her physically and emotionally broken. Naydich said that her speech has slowed and that she suffers from ongoing cognitive problems.

Naydich returned to the school under a different title in August but was then placed on an unpaid leave of absence, according to Fox 35. Without any steady income, she is now relying on donations and assistance from the community to stay afloat. A GoFundMe account launched after the attack has so far raised roughly $106,000.

Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees is the unanimous winner of the American League’s annual Cy Young Award. Blake Snell of the San Diego Padres won the National League’s corresponding award with 28 out of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is out for the season with a broken bone in his throwing shoulder and a sprained ankle. Watson sustained the injuries during Sunday’s 33-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Rookie player Dorian Thompson-Robinson is expected to start at quarterback in this Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

🏈BEARS’ JUSTIN FIELDS IS READY: Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is expected to start Sunday against the Detroit Lions, according to the NFL Network. Fields missed the last four games after suffering a dislocated thumb in Week 6.

🏀DRAYMOND GREEN SUSPENDED: The NBA has suspended Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green for five games for putting Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert in a chokehold during Tuesday’s game. The NBA called that “unsportsmanlike and dangerous.” Gobert called it “clown behavior.” Gobert was fined $25,000, as were Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, who joined in the general melee between the Warriors and the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves won Tuesday’s game 104-101.

☔THE WETTEST TOWN IN AMERICA: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is the wettest major city in America, at least this year. The city north of Miami has had 100 inches of rain so far this year. It isn’t over, either: Unusually heavy rain fell in southern Florida yesterday and continues today with a total up to 10 inches expected.

⛄YES, BUT IT’S WORSE IN ANCHORAGE: Anchorage, Alaska, is enduring what could turn out to be its snowiest November ever. About 37.9 inches of snow has already fallen in November, a National Weather Service meteorologist told CNN. Less than one inch more and it’ll surpass the previous record for the entire month of November.

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